Labrador Retriever: Origins and History

Find out more about the lovable Labrador’s hardworking history and ancestry. 

Labrador Retriever: Origins and History

Labrador Retrievers are the world’s most popular dog today but how did the breed come to be? Well, the origins and history of the Labrador Retriever are fascinating indeed, dating back to the 1830s involving Portugal, Canada and Great Britain.
However, the generally accepted (and abridged) history is that the breed came about when the now extinct St. John’s Water Dogs, bred by European settlers in Newfoundland, Canada, came back on a Portuguese fishing ship to Poole, Dorset. These dogs were noticed for their love of water, as well as their hard-working aptitude for retrieving, and loyal nature. They were then bred with British hunting dogs and the outcome of this match became known later as the now loved, big-hearted, Labrador Retriever. Over time, the breed became more popular as their reputation grew to what we know them as today, which is a food loving, at times goofy, playful companion.

The Original Purpose of Labradors

Labrador Retrievers, or Labs for short, were originally bred in the 1830s for a specific purpose: to help retrieve fish and nets for fishermen. Their strength in swimming, their rudder-like tail, and webbed paws helped them to excel in this role. But so did their fantastic nature and temperament. Over time as their popularity grew and other breeding took place, they grew to also be well suited to retrieving game on land as they were fish and nets in the water.

The St. John’s Water Dogs of Newfoundland

It is accepted that Labradors are descended from the St. John’s Water dogs of Newfoundland. The St. John’s Water Dog, also known as the Lesser Newfoundland, was an intelligent, medium-sized dog with a muscular build, great swimming ability, and a thick water-resistant coat. They were believed to have descended from the now extinct Great Newfoundland breed and other local water dogs in the 16th-century. These dogs were highly versatile and were used for fishing, retrieving, and even pulling small boats to shore.

Over time as trade flowed from North America back to Britain and Europe, a few British hunters and fishermen took notice of the St. John’s Water Dog and sought to create a new breed with a strong instinct for retrieving game on land as well fish as sea.

Latest Posts/Related

What is Hybrid Vigour in Dogs?

lorem lorem lorem lorem

Labrador Retriever: The Perfect Surfing Dog

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Phasellus hendrerit. Pellentesque aliquet nibh nec urna. [...]

Why are Labrador’s Tails so Strong?

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Phasellus hendrerit. Pellentesque aliquet nibh nec urna. [...]

Do Labradors Have Webbed Feet?

Do Labradors have webbed feet? Labrador Retrievers are one of the most popular dog breeds [...]

Upload Image...
My Labrador Doggo

News, advice, ideas, and fun things all about Labrador Retrievers. 


We are a small family run site so the use of ads and affiliate links is essential to cover the costs of keeping us going! We hope this is OK.

Useful Links
  • About us
  • Privacy & Cookies
  • Blog